How to Talk to Your Man

Here’s a surprise: Men are needier than women when it comes to intimacy.

Women often get emotional support from other women—friends, mothers and daughters, for example. Men, however, crave intimacy and affirmation from their spouses, because according to a recent Chicago Tribune article, it’s the only place they get it. And after speaking to a North Shore men’s group recently on the topic of building intimacy, it was clear that men are often confused and frustrated by the way we women talk with them.

Men rely primarily on their partner when it comes to expressing their feelings and seeking affection. Good news, right? The men in our lives want to connect with us! The bad news is that they find our style of relating difficult and distressing.

Here are a few things the men told me that morning:

“I wish my wife would do me the courtesy of talking as directly to me as she does to the dog. She gets down to his level, looks him in the eye, and tells him clearly what she expects.”

“When she starts in the middle of the issue, I can’t track. I’m a linear thinker, please start at the beginning.”

“I see my wife talking with her friends and she’s smiling and speaking with intensity, passion and humor. Why can’t she talk to me like that?”

“Tell me what you really think, not what you think I want to hear. Don’t shut down if I don’t get it—tell me what you need.”

To women, our circuitous, collaborative conversation style makes perfect sense, but to men, it feels disjointed and rambling. So on behalf of the guys, who I’m convinced really, really want to connect with us, I’ve developed these communication guidelines. Hopefully they’ll bring us all closer.

How to Talk to Your Man

1. State your purpose. Do you just want to share a story or are you looking for his help? Men are solution-driven, so telling your guy what you want will help him actively listen.

2. Start at the beginning and proceed sequentially. Men are logical thinkers and get frustrated when women bounce between subjects or go off on tangents.

3. Touch him. Men are less verbal than women and value affectionate physical contact. Hold his hand or touch his shoulder, and he’ll pay closer attention to you.

4. Don’t expect him to guess how you feel. He really doesn’t know and would appreciate you telling him.

5. Focus on him. You can chat with your girlfriend while folding laundry or balancing your checkbook, but men operate by giving their full attention to one thing at a time and find other activity distracting.

6. Turn up the charm. According to “The Normal Bar,” a comprehensive relationship study of more than 70,000 people, criticism and bossiness undermine intimacy in a relationship.

But guys, you’ve got to do your part as well. Here are a few tips for you:

How to Talk to Your Woman

1. Give her verbal and physical cues that you are listening. Nod, smile, look her in the eye, and make encouraging sounds (yep, mm-hmm, go on.) This confirms that you’re interested, so she knows she has made her point and can move on.

2. Ask questions. If you’re confused, simply ask. Your questions show you care about what she’s saying.

3. Introduce something sensory to the conversation. Women often think about many things at once and can get a little stressed out. A walk, some music, a candle or bath are all soothing and help a woman get out of her head, relax and slow down.